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Trailer Loading and Hauling Tips

There are a lot of things to know about horses and trailers that are helpful.  I’ll start with loading.  The interesting thing to know is that you do not need a trailer to prepare a horse for trailer loading.

Horses that unload fast or panicky acting are usually horses that were not loaded correctly.  In Stage 2 of The Horse Ranch program, one of the tasks the person is required to be able to do is stand outside the trailer and send the horse into the trailer.  The horse needs to stay in the trailer for one minute without the person blocking the door.  If the horse turns and sticks its head out of the door before one minute then there is more preparation to do before I would say he was ready to haul or close the door.  The best way to prepare a horse, is to make sure you can stand still and send your horse under things, over things and between things without moving your feet.  You put a feel on the lead and you have taught him to follow the direction of the feel you put on the halter.  You should have this working well enough that you can send your horse at different speeds.  If, while standing still, you could pick up the lead line and suggest a canter from your horse without moving your feet or chasing him with a stick, then you’ve done a very good job of teaching your horse to “follow a feel”.  It doesn’t have to be that good for trailer loading but it is an example of how good it can be. 

There are 3 reasons a horse doesn’t load easily or unloads too fast.  It can be 1, 2, or all 3 of these reasons.  It could be a confidence, a respect, or an understanding issue.  If we learn how to build these 3 areas there will not be a trailer loading issue going in or out of the trailer.  Being able to send horses at different speeds with and without obstacles in their way such as over barrels suggests that we have achieved what the horse needed and we have prepared the horse for tight spaces.  It isn’t about the trailer.  Every trailer loading demo that I’ve done across Canada, U.S. Mexico, and Brazil and for students in the last 15 years the horse and owner did not understand these concepts.

Sending a horse into the trailer is more proof that the horse is more ready to haul.  If he can stay in without you blocking the door that is more proof.  If you can go in and out of the trailer pet him and he is not tied and he stays in the trailer again that is a horse that has had good preparation for hauling.  Once they are at this point I’m happy to go to the next step.

I get asked all the time, should I tie the horse or turn them loose.  There are lots of variables to this.  If they tie great, then tying is fine.  The question is what is great?  If a horse gets worried, what you called a great tying horse might not be so great.  If I’m using an angle haul trailer, I will put the horse in its stall.  I take the rope and run the rope up through the ring in front of him, then bring the rope back to the next stall and run the rope through that ring.  I close the partition while holding the end of the rope then tie it in the stall that the horse is not in.   So horse goes in first stall, his rope goes through the ring in his stall, but I tie the knot in the second stall after the stall partition is closed.  To let him out, I undo my knot in the second stall then open the stall partition.  This way you don’t need to be next to the horse and have him tied hard with no protection for you if he gets worried and pulls back.  Some of the things I think about for tying or not tying is if they are loose is there anything for the horse to bang into or cut themselves on.  If there is more than one horse, will they get to fighting?  If I tie a horse or many, is there a way to tie them so if they get worried and tried to pull they couldn’t because they had a wall or petition that would stop them?  In an angle haul, I generally tie them so they can’t get their heads all the way around because they will often think they can turn and will try.  This can really cause a bunch of trouble for you and your horse.

You want to make your horse’s trailer experiences as good as you can so they can relax in the trailer.  Another thing to remember is when you get to where you’re going and untie your horse, wait a few moments, stand there and pet them for a bit.  Make sure you don’t start the habit of untying, turning and getting out of the trailer.  Have the horse stand quietly, rub him a little then turn, stop, rub him some more and calmly lead them out.

Hope these suggestions help.  We have DVDs that show what we need to do and how to teach a horse to follow a feel, what to do when you get to the trailer and what to do in the trailer.

Trailering never needs to be anything but fun and relaxing for both the horse and the human.

Happy Hauling,

Glenn Stewart